By Abubakar Jimoh
There are indications that faulty recruitment and selection processes by the security forces could be major contributory factors to persistent human rights abuses and violations by Nigerian peacekeeping troops in various United Nations’ missions.
These hints are contained in a 78-page report titled “Nigeria: Navigating Secrecy in the Vetting and Selection of Peacekeepers” published by the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) in collaboration with Asia Centre for Human Rights, supported by Open Society Institute, New York.
The report attributes persistent human rights violation and abuses by peacekeeping troops to systemic corruption and inconsistencies associating with personnel recruitment and selection of troops for peacekeeping where “personal relationships and political positioning drive the promotion and assignment” activities.
While the reported cases of misconduct by Nigeria and other security forces during peacekeeping missions triggered the development of uniform standards of conduct for all personnel by the United Nations, the report however faults poor implementation and enforcement of the standards by the troop contributing countries including Nigeria.
Narrating the discrepancies in the process of selecting troops to peacekeeping missions, the report reveals that some battalions are loaded with clerks, cooks, batmen and orderlies who can barely handle a weapon, but are well connected to legislators, retired military officers and traditional rulers who influence the selection process, thereby compromising competence and capacity.”
It bemoans actions of some unit commanders who flaw selection process by singlehandedly selecting individuals to be shortlisted, instead of working in conjunction with the Department of Army Administration which oversees the administration, welfare, discipline, employment and development of all human resources in the Nigerian Army to ensure that all of those to be selected are of good conduct.
The report also gives the instances of the inconsistencies in the Nigeria Police Force where appointments into the Force is determined largely by seniority and representation, and influenced by nepotism, political patronage and regime interests and preferences leading to “ineffectiveness.”
“The Police Service Commission, which has responsibility for the recruitment into the police, has published guidelines for Recruitment into the Nigerian Police, which prescribe the minimum requirement for each of the position in the police. The guidelines are an attempt at consistency and due process in the recruitment of police, but in practice, these principles have been largely ignored,” it noted.
Apart from those obtained through the National Human Rights Commission and other civil society organisations, the report reveals that various training activities for new recruits by the Police Force lack human rights and gender issues component including the peacekeeping pre-deployment training.
Observing the existence of comprehensive and transparent vetting system within the Nigerian Army, the report acknowledges little cross-referencing between the units and Department of Army Administration during selection, adding that the cross-referencing and selection processes are influenced by socio-economic and political factors giving chances to erring personnel with disciplinary cases to be shortlisted and enlisted for peacekeeping operations.
The report expresses worries over lack of emphasis for code of conduct, discipline and integrity during the graduation ceremony with no extension to peacekeeping pre-deployment training, recommending re-evaluation of peacekeeping training in light of the United Nations modules.
On the resultant effects of human rights violation and abuses, the report notes that in 2012 out of 1,377 Nigerian soldiers vetted to receive American training, 211 were rejected or suspended for human rights concerns.
Despite the zero-tolerance policy maintained by the United Nations against sexual exploitation and abuses at peacekeeping level with expressed commitment by Nigeria to the principle of accountability concerning sexual abuse and other criminal acts by its peacekeepers, the report laments lack of documented effort to address the challenge.
“There is no publicly known policy on sexual abuse and harassment in the army. There have been many cases of sexual abuse and harassment by members of the Nigerian armed forces during internal military operations. Recent cases include sexual harassment by soldiers during the campaign against Boko Haram in Kano, Borno and Yobe”.
“There have also been similar reports during the JTF campaign in both the Niger Delta and in Jos, Plateau. Those responsible have not been punished. It is possible that some of those involved in these incidents find their way into peacekeeping operations.
“Given that those who have participated in internal operations are considered as having some previous experience, in spite of the fact they might have awful records, they have advantage in being considered for international peacekeeping operations,” the report bemoans.
It further recalls the cases of peacekeeping operations in Liberia and DRC where many of the soldiers impregnated several women as a clear demonstration of lack of existing policy and action on sexual exploitation and abuse.
At domestic level, the report notes alleged cases of extrajudicial killings, torture, arson, arbitrary arrests and detention, and extortion including destruction of civilian property by security forces in the on-going war against insurgency across the North East.
As part of recommendations, the report suggests appropriate national Policy on Peacekeeping Support Operations to clearly stipulate the principles, criteria, processes and mechanisms for the selection of peacekeeping personnel as well as create civilian oversight mechanisms to ensure transparency and accountability of personnel vetted for participation in peacekeeping operations.
It calls for formulation and implementation of appropriate policies to address recurring cases of sexual exploitation and abuse and human rights violations, and introduction of monitoring system in all components to ensure proper screening for human rights violations.
More importantly, the report recommends gender inclusion in peacekeeping operations to allow women participation in peacekeeping processes as peace-makers, peace-builders, peacekeepers and negotiators both at national and conflict-torn countries.